One of the best ways for me to stay grounded lately is to spend time outdoors with the puppies. It seems the only thing better for mindful living than a baby or a dog is a baby dog…or two.
(19 week old Boxador pups playing in snow)
A recurring theme in cognitive therapy is that about the only control we have in life is how we respond to people and events. As is true for other potential responses, when something happens or someone says something we don’t like or agree with, it is our choice whether or not to take offense. Acknowledging that fact may not sit well with a victim mentality, but it is incredibly liberating. In today’s culture, it is also a fact that is often overlooked.
This was taken a week ago. Hard to believe how much they’ve grown since then. Single digit temperatures (Fahrenheit) and subzero wind chills have kept the treks outside short for them this week, but warmer air, fresh snow, and longer walks are due soon. Inside or out, dogs are great for teaching us how to seize the moment and enjoy whatever the world has to offer.
If I should die…
My wife would be devastated. So many years together, growing and depending on each other. She loves me, of this I have no doubt. Although it would break her heart, she is a strong woman who would do what she had to do.
If I should die, my children would be sad. They might miss me for a while, or even be angry that I passed with unfinished business between us, but hopefully they would always feel loved.
If I should die while my mother is still alive, she too would be heartbroken. Less so because it was me, and more that it would be yet another child of hers gone. After all, as we’ve heard, “what parent expects to outlive his or her children?” But yes, she too would be sad.
If I should go, my remaining sisters would cry because that’s what they do. My brothers would be stoic for the same reason.
My military family, the brothers and sisters in arms with whom I’ve served, in uniform or after, would likely offer a tribute and some might even say in a respectful way, “he was alright.”
Friends and extended family would whisper, “that’s too bad” or “did you hear?” Many would likely send condolescences and a few true friends might check on my widow to see how she’s doing and offer assistance.
Clients, if anything, might be angry I’m gone, another example (to them) of someone they trust turning his back to their problems.
The wider world would barely notice, nothing more than another obituary and papers to sign.
My dogs would be… confused.
But who are we kidding, there is no ‘if’, only ‘when’. We all die in our time. It is a natural part of – and the only guarantee in – life.
Death is comforting to me, something to look forward to but not to rush. I harbor no delusions of grandeur; whatever difference I’ve made, if any, has likely been one-on-one. Perhaps it was adding a descendent to the line who is better than me, or a kindness I shared I was not even aware of. Maybe, although I hope not, it was providing a bad example that set someone else right.
I doubt I’ll ever know what my purpose for being is. But I trust there is one and that as long as I’m here there is more to it. I have faith about what will happen after death, that whatever it is will be to the glory of God. But if I’m wrong, so be it. If there is nothing after death, what difference will it make?
Simply put: as long as we are here, life goes on. There is beauty in that, in the world, in being. There is also ugliness and hate, it’s true; but their existence allows appreciation of the love and beauty and countless other wonderful things. As far as we know, all we can take with us when we go are the lessons we learn while we are here. And what is living well, after all, if not loving, learning, and growing till we are gone?
Those are my thoughts anyway. Is it wrong to think about death, especially our own? I don’t think so. As the only surety we have, why would we not? Or to fantasize about the end of our pain? If the Buddhists are right, life is suffering. As for me, I think there’s more to it than that, and even the Buddhists hope for continued learning and growing ever closer to enlightenment – something in order to accomplish, one must be alive. In that light, to think about death is only logical.
To be clear, this is not an invitation to take one’s own life. On the contrary, it is a call for acceptance that suffering is part of the process, the very thing we’re built to endure.
And the clearest evidence of this is that we are here.
So when things seem too much or like you can’t go on, remember the simple fact you are alive is a blessing and wonder. And understand with no uncertainty that Death is a skilled master who needs no help with the process.
As dawn and excited chaos loom, I wish you and yours a truly blessed Christmas.
It is healthy to periodically take stock of ourselves. Lately I’ve been posting weekly photos of the puppies. It documents how much and how fast they’ve grown, something that is hard to appreciate day to day. Weekly photos may not capture the kind of growth we want for ourselves. But taking stock of our inner growth from time to time, of our strengths, accomplishments, and the goodness we offer, can help remind us of how very far we’ve come.